"Estate planning" in Hazelwood refers to the decisions a person makes concerning what is to be done with their assets after their death, and the procedure of implementing those wishes.
Estate planning normally requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can commonly end with survivors suing each other, and prevent your intentions from being effectuated.
In the process of estate planning, you'll likely also deal with issues that can affect you during life. These include issues like power of attorney (to ensure that your wishes are carried out even if you're unable to express them), as well as instructions to your doctors and family regarding medical care. A seasoned estate planner can also help you achieve your goals, while minimizing the effects of expenses like court fees and taxes.
If you want to maximize the odds that your wishes will be followed after your death, you should do everything you can to make them legally binding. While this is not always possible, a Hazelwood attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is permitted, it is done.
Common Features of Hazelwood Estates
Will: This is a legal document which transfers ownership of the testator's (the person making the will) property to named beneficiaries after the testator's death. The beneficiaries can be just about anyone the testator chooses, but smaller estates, usually only include family members, and maybe very close friends. If you want, you can place conditions on gifts (say, leaving a certain amount of money to your son, but only if he graduates college before he turns 25 - this is just an example). However, a will can't actually compel anyone to do anything, and some conditional gifts won't be enforced, usually because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a certain person.
Living Will: This is a document which lays out instructions for your medical care, should you become so sick or badly harmed that you are unable to express your wishes. It should state under what situations you want to remain on life support. A well-drafted living will can prevent you from being kept alive in a permanent vegetative state (if that is not what you want), while guaranteeing that you receive medical care as long as you have a chance at recovery.
Power of Attorney: What if you become incapacitated, and can't make your own decisions? It would be nice if somebody knew what you would want in a given situation, and, on top of that, had the legal authority to make that decision for you. Power of attorney lets you do clearly that, granting a person of your choice the ability to make certain decisions for you, in case you, for whatever reason, can't (you can, of course, control the scope of power that you grant).
Funeral Arrangements: What do you want done with your body after you die? Do you want to be cremated? How about buried? Or maybe you want to be cremated, and have your remains shot into space? Whatever your preference, you won't exactly be able to tell anyone when the time comes. Thus, you should make your desires on this matter known well in advance. You also shouldn't make your will the only place where these instructions are included, since it might not be read for weeks after your death, when it will likely be too late.
Do I Need a Hazelwood Estates Lawyer?
A seasoned estates lawyer in Hazelwood can make the estate planning process much easier. He or she can maximize the chances of your wishes being given effect. Additionally, a good and clear estate plan is far less likely to result in litigation in the future, since disputes of this nature are almost always the result of ambiguity.